This was a year of change for the Bakersfield High Driller football team. However, between all the change, there was one constant. That is the Drillers hosting Clovis East in the opening round of the Central Section Division I playoffs.
And much like last season, the Drillers defeated the Timberwolves on Friday night on the strength of a dominating second half, this year by the score of 34-15.
While it wasn’t the 86-point shootout from 2018, the game opened up like it had the potential to be. On the third play from scrimmage, Timberwolves quarterback Sean Kelly ran an option play to perfection and fooled the entire Driller (6-5) defense as he outran them for an 80-yard touchdown. The extra point try was no good due to a botched snap, which would end up being costly for Clovis East (4-7).
Bakersfield would answer on their opening drive, as the offense would chip away down the field, even converting on an early 4th down. Three straight penalties on BHS, however, created 3rd and 25, which was no issue for quarterback Wesley Wilson, who showed off his legs with a 36-yard option keeper. Devontay Bell would then score from 13 yards out and a successful extra point gave BHS the one-point advantage.
Clovis East would mount a long drive of their own to answer, which ended with a 3-yard score by Jo’nation Dejohnette. A failed two-point conversion only put the Timberwolves up 12-7. BHS, however, answered right back as Wilson scored on a 4-yard keeper to put BHS back up two. It seemed like both teams were running at will and nobody could make a stop.
“The thing is that you just want to get positive yards,” said Bakersfield head coach Michael Stewart, who picked up his first playoff victory as the head coach of the Drillers. “When you have a guy like Wesley Wilson who can do it all, he was able to be back there and we were able to get the ball to some other guys.”
The Drillers defense was finally able to fix the leak and held up the Timberwolves’ rushing attack to close out the first half and it ended up being a preview of things to come in the second half.
“We had to fill in some of our gaps and wrap up and just not give away plays,” Stewart said. “The guys made adjustments and held their poise and the difference was the second half which was a lot better.”
BHS received the second half kickoff and continued to drive down the field, which was capped off by an 11-yard rushing score from Wilson, who finished the game with 97 yards on the ground.
Now with a 21-12 lead and, at the time, a seemingly important two-possession cushion, the Bakersfield defense forced a three and out, but the offensive buzzsaw was finally put to a halt by the Timberwolves defense. Clovis East would drive down the field once more, but a key 9-yard sack from Blaine Abbott, who had two on the night, made the Timberwolves settle for a 25-yard field goal by Bryant Thao, which shrank their deficit to 21-15.
That would ultimately be the only points Clovis East would score in the second half, and the Driller offense quickly made sure to regain their two-possession cushion. Wilson, in the longest play of the night for BHS, avoided a defender and chucked the ball downfield to a wide open Elijah Lee for a monstrous 58-yard gain that was capped off on the next play with a 4-yard rushing score from Cam Bonner, making it 28-15, and giving BHS breathing room for the rest of the game.
“They opened it up a bit in the first half and we were able to make some more adjustments in the second half, so just proud of these guys all around,” Stewart said.
The Driller defense would then force a four-and-out and would pad their lead from a 1-yard direct snap rush from DJ Adams, putting the game on ice and giving BHS their second straight home playoff victory over Clovis East.
The Drillers will hit the road next week as they travel to second-seeded Clovis-Buchanan.